Population structure and strong divergent selection shape phenotypic diversification in maize landraces

Heredity (Edinb). 2004 Feb;92(2):95-101. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800388.


To conserve the long-term selection potential of maize, it is necessary to investigate past and present evolutionary processes that have shaped quantitative trait variation. Understanding the dynamics of quantitative trait evolution is crucial to future crop breeding. We characterized population differentiation of maize landraces from the State of Oaxaca, Mexico for quantitative traits and molecular markers. Qst values were much higher than Fst values obtained for molecular markers. While low values of Fst (0.011 within-village and 0.003 among-villages) suggest that considerable gene flow occurred among the studied populations, high levels of population differentiation for quantitative traits were observed (ie an among-village Qst value of 0.535 for kernel weight). Our results suggest that although quantitative traits appear to be under strong divergent selection, a considerable amount of gene flow occurs among populations. Furthermore, we characterized nonproportional changes in the G matrix structure both within and among villages that are consequences of farmer selection. As a consequence of these differences in the G matrix structure, the response to multivariate selection will be different from one population to another. Large changes in the G matrix structure could indicate that farmers select for genes of major and pleiotropic effect. Farmers' decision and selection strategies have a great impact on phenotypic diversification in maize landraces.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • DNA, Chloroplast / analysis
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Mexico
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Zea mays / classification
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • DNA, Chloroplast